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Former San Onofre engineer alleges SoCalEd ran nuke too hard, causing leak

Aformer engineer at the now-shuttered San Onofre Nuclear Generating Stationsubmitted a statement to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission alleging that ran the plant beyond its performance capacity, which caused a radioactive waterleak in the plant's unit 3.

Consumergroup Public Watchdogs posted a report by the former engineer, Vinod Arora, along withdocuments Aroraobtained from the NRC under a Freedom of Information Act request from which thegroup said Arora based his findings.

"NRCdocuments show Southern California Edison's nuclear plant failed because it ranits generators too hot, too hard, and too fast in order to maximizeprofits," Public Watchdogs said.

Arora,a former nuclear safety engineer at San Onofre, is CEO of nonprofit AVP AroraInternational. The organization's website states that it is a public charityprofessional engineering corporation in Anaheim, Calif., concerned with safenuclear utility management.

PublicWatchdogs said Arora asserted in his analysis that San Onofre plant operatorspushed the plant beyond its breaking point "until it was overloaded andbegan to shake to pieces." Steam generator tubes filled withsuperheated, pressurized, radioactive water banged together violently causingabrasion and metal fatigue that created dangerous leaks, Public Watchdogs said.

SoCalEdsaid Arora is misinformed and that the NRC determined nearly two years ago thecause of the problem was faulty design by the manufacturer of the plant's steamgenerators.

TheLa Mesa, Calif.-based Public Watchdogs quoted Arora as saying SoCalEd usedhigher-than-allowable steam pressures in unit 3 generators and deliberatelypushed the generators beyond their design limit, while unit 2 experienced lesswear because of lower steam pressures and lower primary reactor coolanttemperatures. SoCalEd announcedJune 7, 2013, its decision to take both units permanently offline.

"Thedata suggests that Southern California Edison was running the generatorsoutside of the original design and functional testing specifications for thereplacement steam generators," Arora said, as quoted by Public Watchdogs."They redlined the generators to increase SCE's profits and to reduce tubewear to minimize dings and dents. They ran them too hard and too fast, and theybroke."

Aroraperformed his analysis with the guidance of engineers from the Institute ofNuclear Power Operations, Public Watchdogs said.

"OnceSCE's Operating Logs for Units 2 and 3 are secured, they will show that theratepayer funded bailout of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station shouldnever have occurred. SCE was entirely responsible for the steam generators'redesign and acted recklessly in their deployment and operation,"Public Watchdogs said.

However,SoCalEd said by email that Public Watchdogs "relies on comments by aformer SONGS employee that is simply misinformed."

SoCalEd,an EdisonInternational subsidiary, blames Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. for the equipmentfailure and, along with part owner San Diego Gas & Electric Co., is seeking more than$7.5 billion in damages from the generator manufacturer. SDG&E is asubsidiary of SempraEnergy. SoCalEd spokesman Robert Laffoon-Villegas said by phone thatarbitration is still ongoing in the case before the International Chamber ofCommerce.

Theutility said the NRC concluded that Mitsubishi designed the faulty steamgenerators with flawed computer modeling that inaccurately predicted hydraulicconditions that lead to generator tube vibration and wear.

"Asfar back as September of 2013, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)identified flaws in how Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) used its computercodes to design the failed steam generators at SONGS," SoCalEd said in itsemail. "The NRC further issued a 'Notice of Non-Conformance' against MHIfor its flawed computer modeling in the failed design."

"Inparticular, the NRC reports indicated that MHI's use of its computer codes inthe design of the steam generators inaccurately predicted thermal hydraulicconditions in the steam generators, leading to tube vibration and wear, and asteam generator tube leak. The NRC inspection findings reinforced an NRCAugmented Inspection Team report in 2012 that identified MHI's computermodeling errors," SoCalEd concluded.